The Car Search Begins

My 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD (well, not mine, but you get it)

I’ve had my 2012 Acura TL for almost six years now, which is a milestone for me as it’s the first car I’ve financed and paid off completely. I like my TL – it’s comfortable, the interior looks great, the audio system is amazing, it’s roomy, it has solid performance, and it has all wheel drive. Mechanically there is little wrong with it outside of bad tire monitor sensors, some oxidation on the outside mirrors, and some scratches and dings here and there. After 92,000 miles it still drives great, but it’s starting to show its age in comparison to newer vehicles.

Technology is a big part of the challenge. While my TL has a great audio system, it’s starting to struggle to connect to my iPhone and navigate songs and it freaks out if you get a call while listening to a podcast. I’d like a newer, higher resolution infotainment and navigation experience. I’d love to have Apple CarPlay to get top-notch integration with my phone from music to texts to podcasts and free myself from the inevitable obsoletion of that high-resolution infotainment experience that I want so much.

Safety and driver assistance are important as well. In a world where a base Toyota Corolla includes radar cruise control, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, and road sign recognition, my simple blind spot monitoring is looking pretty weak. Some of the luxury cars that I was looking at when I bought the TL had these features, but now they are available nearly everywhere. 

Other luxury conveniences are trickling down to mainstream cars as well. It’s becoming increasingly common for cars to offer features like multi-camera systems, rain sensing wipers, heads up displays, digital gauges, heated steering wheels, selectable drive modes, and heaps of customizable settings in their upper trim levels. I’m not talking about Audis and BMWs here; I’m talking about Fords, Chevys, Hyundais, Kias, Mazdas, Subarus, Hondas, and Toyotas. I’m talking about standard features on $20,000 commuter cars. 

It doesn’t help that I’ve had access to some of these features in Sally’s 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe. Car Play, a heated steering wheel, multi-camera system, parking sensors, and customizable settings have been teasing me for almost three years now. Every time I get in the Santa Fe I feel like my TL is behind, despite its strengths. 

Outside of technology and general age, I do have quibbles with my TL. I’ve never been a huge fan of the styling; it’s OK but it is not very sporty and it certainly isn’t sexy. It has a big ass and a long front, it’s very long and wide, and it’s black. I’m over black cars. I want something that shows up. Gas mileage is not great and I can get similar fuel economy out of a newer, more powerful engine. I’d like that engine to be a twin-turbo V6 and I’d like a car that is tuned to handle its power. 

When I made my final payment last May I was excited and felt no need to run out and replace it. Over the summer and fall I had no interest in researching, comparing, test driving, and purchasing a new vehicle. I certainly had no interest in dealing with slimy salespeople at a car dealership haggling over trades, prices, extended warranties, and service plans.

Coming up on the end of my sixth year something changed. I’d been following potential “next cars” for a few years and saw some promising developments. I try to buy used and some of those cars were starting to hit the used market. I also experienced some general maintenance issues that started to annoy me. Nothing out of the ordinary (tires, batteries, wheel bearings), just annoying. I was finally interested enough to casually look at feature sets and pricing and was surprised by how quickly I got excited. All of a sudden the features my TL lack became much more important to me and the idea of buying a car wasn’t so bad. 

So it’s time to start my search. I always start with general research on a bunch of vehicles, pore through brochures and manuals, read forums, review prices new and used, and put together a comparison matrix. Some vehicles are eliminated based on specs and price alone, while others make it into The Matrix. Using The Matrix, I whittle 10 or so vehicles down to final candidates that I’ll actually drive and possibly buy. 

I don’t have any particular timeframe and I’m in no particular rush, however I am cognizant of investing too much extra money in my TL. I bought cheap tires for it last year and they truly suck in the winter (even with all wheel drive) and I’m not replacing the tire pressure sensors. I’ve never replaced the brakes (I’ve had them refinished) so I expect those to come at some point. My next registration is in November so I’d rather invest that money into a newer car.

With a few minor investments my TL could reliably get me around for another 2+ years, but it won’t be as enjoyable as a newer car would be. I don’t need a new car but I want one. I’m in the research / comparison phase now and I’m starting to consider test drives. I’ll keep you posted. 


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